Recently, I visited cnn.com to be greeted by the top, front page, shocking story, “Woman Named Football Coach”! Just to alleviate any confusion, this wasn’t a story about a woman who was given the first name “Football” and the last name “Coach”. No, this was a ground-breaking story of apparently the first woman in history ever to have coached a high school boys football team. They weren’t talking about a pro-football team, or even a college team, but a high school team, which strikes me as something that should have been big news in 1959. But in 2010? Really?
This got me wondering how many other jobs out there are still ripe, in 2010, for a person to be the first woman to have.
The first thing that comes to mind is the almost complete lack of female game show hosts. I’m not saying that Game Show Host is something that anyone with much self respect would aspire to. But, there are certainly a lot of popular female celebrities, so why have so few of them hosted a game show?
President of the United States. OK, that one seems fairly obvious, but think about it: 44 presidents in a country with over 50% women and all have been men. Years ago, I was traveling across the country, when Geraldine Ferraro was running for vice president. I came across a woman in Tennessee who told me that a woman could never be President because she might get her period during an emergency. And there you have it.
UN Secretary General. Not only have all of them been men, but I believe that all people ever nominated to the post have been men.
Late night TV comedic talk show writers are, and have always been, to my knowledge, all men. It’s a very strange club to be all male. Do they think that women can’t write bad talk show jokes? Didn’t Sally Rodgers on the Dick Van Dyke Show prove that women could write satire for TV? Oh yeah, I forgot – she was a fictitious character who’s lines were written by 12 men.
In a list of 208 of the world’s top orchestra conductors, guess how many are women? If you guessed 2, you are right! Fewer than 1% are women. Is there something inherently male about conducting an orchestra?
Let’s think about what we’ve learned here today. There are some jobs in the 21st century that are held almost exclusively by men. The examples I’ve listed are: president, UN secretary general, orchestral conductor, game show host, football coach, and late night talk show writer. What else do all of these jobs have in common? OK, the talk show writer one is a little strange, but the others all involve people in being in charge. Is this a role that, by and large, both men and women can’t picture women in? I say “both men and women,” because some of these positions are hired by women or groups of women and men.
So, next time you are choosing the next Secretary General of the UN, or the coach of a high school football team, I hope that you question whether your decision is affected by a subconscious belief that men are supposed to run things. When we choose people by gender, we are disqualifying half the population from jobs that they may have something very special to contribute to.